Most Doctors Fail to Report Negligent Colleagues

A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association and analyzed at MedScape Today reveals that doctors usually fail to report their concerns about incompetent and impaired doctors to appropriate officials.

Most doctors admit that they have a duty to report any time they witness a doctor who for any reason is unable to provide the reasonable level of medical care that a patient deserves. However, the levels of actual reporting on negligent doctors fall far below the level that it should.

The survey which revealed these discouraging results was conducted last year, using a nationwide sample that included cardiologists, general surgeons, pediatricians, psychiatrists, internists, anesthesiologists, and family practitioners. Overall, 64% of respondents agreed that they have a professional obligation to report any fellow doctor who was incompetent or otherwise impaired to perform appropriate medical care.

Yet, one out of three of those doctors admitted that they had been confronted with a situation where they knew a colleague should not be providing care, but decided not to mention anything to anyone.

The medical researcher who conducted the survey mentioned the discouraging and dangerous effect of these failures to report, writing, “All health care professionals, from administrative leaders to those providing clinical care, must understand the urgency of preventing impaired or incompetent colleagues from injuring patients and the need to help these physicians confront and resolve their problems.”

The author admits that as it stands now patients are currently exposed to needless risk. A representative for the Chicago-based Institute for Ethics, American Medical Association admitted that the current system needs to be improved, calling for education, socialization of the problem, and better protection for medical whistle-blowers who risk backlash for confessing the substandard care being provided by institutions.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti are disheartened, but not surprised by these latest survey results. Our legal battles on behalf of medical malpractice victims has revealed that other doctors often allow patients to risk injury from medical error rather than step in and stop incompetent colleagues. That fact makes it all the more necessary for injured patients and their family and friends to contact their own representatives if they have been harmed by a negligent medical professional.

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